Wednesday, August 24

An introduction to the casual vacation shore fly fisher: Part 2, stupid exercises in tackle excess.

Many failures, some successes.
I remember the year after I picked up spin fishing the surf, I decided I'd pick up a fly rod and give it a go. Shit, I was practically swimming in croaker, and the thought of blues or stripers was pretty intense. Furthermore, I'd chartered a guide for a four hour jaunt into the back bays of Cape May, and I wanted to go with my own gear.

So, I went to our local Cabela's, walked into the Fly Cave, or whatever the fuck its called, and said, "I'm gonna fly fish for stripers on the Jersey Shore."

They handed me a 10wt Cabela's branded broomstick called an XST and their big shiny XSS reel to go with. WTF did I know about this, all I knew is it was all on sale  and seemed like a no brainer. They also sold me on a mighty costly intermediate sinking striper taper line and out the door I went.

This was about as far from the moderate action 4wt and WFF lines I'd been used to. In fact, I had no fucking clue what I was doing. A good friend and awesome caster came down and helped me out a bit, and with practice I was able to consistently hit about 60'.

I went out, proud and prepared to do battle with the mighty striped bass of late August.

Those of you with my then-level of experience don't realize why everyone else is laughing at us.

Rest assured, I went out and bravely flailed at high tide for the first few nights, only to realize it was fruitless and stupid. If you're unprepared, a 10wt rod with a sinking line in a massive headwind is about as stupid as pissing into the wind, and as embarassing if anyone saw you do it.  The benefit of doing this shit at night is that chances are, no one will. Except that kid who was probably stoned and remarked, "man, its like you got a miner's helmet on" coz of the stupid headlight I wear on my hat.

For the record, its my thought that a 10wt rod is overkill for the sort of shit a summer vacationer is bound to run into out there, it might be neccessary for the Rich Murphys of the world when they're running down the coast, but the summer casual angler can be served by something way more moderate. 

Pleasure and pain. 
My guided trip was fun, and I managed to catch my first striped bass, but trying to cast that thing for four hours straight resulted in something I called "my fun blister." It also resulted in my hand resembling something like a claw for the next 18 hours. It wasn't pretty, but it left me with a desire to keep trying. I used some intelligence the next day to think things over, and realized a sheltered bay was only five minutes from our house, and I went down there and managed to catch my first solo fish on the fly that night, the lowly hickory shad.

So, with that year concluded, the next year I was prepared to do battle again next year, but not with that fucking tree trunk.

Year two was an 9' 8wt rod, a TFO Jim Teeny signature model. Still too fast for my tastes, but far more tolerable than that fucking XST thing. To make more reasonable, I cast it with the 10wt lines I bought for last year's model, which is easier for a guy who likes slow rods, but pretty stupid if you're casting into the wind. I was able to use that for the full guided trip, plus every night down at the bay and a few daylight excursions, too without tearing my hand up or cramping it into a perma-claw. Why? Because 8wt rods are fucking monsters, but are managable monsters. 10wt rods are, to people like me, some far flung rung of the ladder of excess.

Year three, this year, had me with that TFO rod, but I knew that the smaller fish I'd catch would be way more fun on a flexy rod. Regular readers can guess this year was the CGR 7/8 rod, again and again. Honestly, I love that fuckin' stick more and more every time I put it to real use. 

The CGR was a blast, a 12" blue bends it hard into a sweet U, but I didn't have the chance to get a striper on it, they came to the TFO rod and sinking line, only. Tell you what, I could spend an entire night catching snappers on that CGR and be contented, that's for sure. 

In hindsight, I'd think a casual angler would do quite well with an 8wt 9' rod. I think I enjoy the 7'6" 7/8wt CGR more, but I'm sort of pecuilar in my tastes. 8-14" bluefish will give you plenty of pull on the modern, fast action rod and leave you smiling, and a striper really feels good. I imagine if I were going to a place where 30-40" fish were gonna be the norm, I'd want a 9 or 10 instead, but let's be honest, most of  us on our summer vacations aren't gonna be pulling in slobs like that. 

OK, I admit it...foul hooked! Note the clip at end of line.
You need a sinking line, period. If you're fishing crashing waves, it'll help cut through them a bit. If you're fishing anywhere else, it'll help get it down. Since I only have a sinking line for the big rod, I made due with a extra fast sinking poly leader other times on my floater for the CGR. It definatly works, but its not as good as the full sinking line. I don't think this would've worked for shit on the surf if I were ever motivated to try again, though. Even just in the bays, don't make the mistake of only having a floater and mono/flouro leaders, though, you will need to get down. Period. Leaders are even simpler, maybe 3-5' of mono, or flouro, step it down in the middle if you're motivated, or don't. I do, I'm a troutmonkey, and if its not tapered it feels like you're doing it wrong. I guess most of these guys don't bother. My tapered leader consisted of 18" of 20# mono and 18" of 15# mono. Last year I tied on another 12" of 10# saltwater tippet, this year I didn't bother and just tied onto the 15#. I also used a little clip to make changing flies easier.

Boring, just like the rest of the XSS.
So, then, reels. The first year, I took the Cabela's XSS reel. Its a perfectly servicable large arbour, sealed disc drag, blah blah buzz word blah reel. Its pretty much synonymous with every other reel known to mankind, and it works just fine. Its also very quiet, and has a tendency to turn on its ball bearings when you cast it. Some people probably consider that to be beneficial, I think its bullshit. I honestly had no reason to replace it, other than the fact that I had a real hankering to own an Abel (which is a whole story in of itself).

Chunky like peanut bunktter

Funny thing about that Abel reel: I hate it. The outgoing drag is...silent!?! Who the fuck thought that was a good idea? I guess Mr. Abel or whomever the founder is wanted to hear the sound of the line going through the guides, but you know what? He's wrong. No one wants to hear that. Want proof? Later versions of the real had outgoing drag click. Also, I hate it. The tolerances are tight as hell, and if you get a bit of sand inside of it, you will hear it constantly. Its not a matter of just opening it up and blowing it out, no sir, its got parts. Fiddly little parts. Fuck Abel. Fuck that reel. Will trade it for an Abel Trout or Creek with the skull anodized on it if you want. Seriously. Hit me up, fuckers!

Screws and springs and awesome shit.
So, look, you know what I took this year, because my last post or so was about it. The plastic 8wt carried my modified 1498, and the glass 7/8 the modified 1495. No matter how little I care about them, still no rust. And if you get some sand on 'em,  just wave 'em around the sandy surf. Best part, they cost less than $25 new, and are fucking unstoppable. Fuck you Abel. Fuck you up the overpriced ass. 

As for random gear? Stripping baskets look fucking lame, but are pretty handy if you're stripping into the water or walking over oyster beds (trust me). You can buy an expensive one, or make your own with a dishpan. You know what? Next year I'm buying one. Fuck this lame ass dishpan shit that hangs on my gut at weird angles and isn't big enough to actually catch my wildly thrown line. But, it was cheap. I do like cheap. You can make one like this guy (not sure what's up with the madonna tit cones inside, whatever), or just fucking operate google like a big boy and find your own design. You know what's not lame? A good fucking pliers, that's what. Buy one that won't rust. I had one liek that once, and I lost it. Best $10 I ever spent. My new pair I bought this year are rusted shut after less than a week. LAME. Pliers. Buy them. Include a sidecutters inside for cutting line, too. 

So, there you go. An 8wt rod, whatever reel you can afford, something that'll sink for line and a pair of pliers. Go fish, asshole. What, where? With what? Shit, you'll have to keep coming back to this bullshit blog for that, bub. Part 3, Flies when I feel like hitting the publish button.

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